PANAMA OUTPLAYS U.S.

Guatemala’s Carlos Ruiz, back left, and Jamaica’s Jermaine Taylor (6) battle for the ball in the first half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match, Friday, June 10, 2011, in Miami.
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
AP Photo/J Pat Carter

“On the night, we were not good enough,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “But Panama certainly was…” Bradley got it right about his team’s 2-1 defeat to Panama Saturday night in a Group C game at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. What is also true is that Bradley contributed to his team’s dismal display.

The U.S. wasn’t in sync Saturday night; absent was the combination play and fluidity needed to breakdown Panama’s defense. The U.S. was rusty in midfield, committing numerous turnovers, and the midfield had no relationship with the forwards. But Bradley only has himself to blame.

A week earlier, the best team in the world came to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro (MA) to play the U.S., but instead of using the occasion to get his first team invaluable experience against world champion Spain, to be able to make Panama an easy game to win, he chose to use a second string team and lose 4-0. The Spain experience would have served the U.S. well against Panama and beyond. Bradley must realize his blunder. Even in the U.S. win versus a weak Canada team last Tuesday, the Americans looked shaky at times.

So Panama got it right Saturday night to the tune of two first half goals by Luis Tajada and Gabriel Gomez to out-do defender Clarence Goodson’s 68th minute header for the U.S. Panama got its first win against the U.S. after nine tries and the U.S. lost it first game in Gold Cup group play. “It’s an historic moment. We, as a coaching staff, have to keep our feet on the ground to make sure that we are successful in the other games,” said Panama coach and former national player Julio Cesar Dely Valdes. Panama, which defeated Guadeloupe, 3-2, in its opening match, advanced to the quarterfinals starting Saturday.

Panama’s first goal came when U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard was unable to hold on to an Amando Cooper’s diving header, only to knock in into the path of Tejada in the 19th minute; it was Tejada seventh all-time Gold Cup goal. In the 36th minute, Tim Ream fouled Blas Perez in the penalty area and Gomez converted the penalty kick. Goodson’s header came of a corner kick. The U.S. pressed Panama late in the game, but failed to capitalize on chances for a draw.

“Give Panama a lot of credit,” U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan said. “They started the game well, took the initiative to be aggressive. When you dig yourselves a hole that huge sometimes you can’t get out of.” The U.S. was scheduled to play winless Guadeloupe Tuesday in Kansas City and must fight for the second place spot in Group C with Canada, which defeated Guadeloupe, 1-0.

Jamaica Is Talk Of The Town

Caribbean champion Jamaica continued its good play from the Caribbean championship earlier in the year and reached the Gold Cup quarterfinals with a perfect, 2-0, start in the Gold Cup. Jamaica knocked off Caribbean foe Grenada, 4-0 on Monday, June 6 at the Home Depot Center in Carson (CA) in the Group B opener, then humbled Guatemala, 2-0, last Friday night.

Honduras, which embarrassed Grenada, 7-1, was the Reggae Boyz next match. Honduras, which tied Guatemala in its first game, is the next Group B team to reach the quarterfinals.

In Group A, Mexico sailed through to the quarterfinals by pummeling Cuba and El Salvador by 5-0 scores; it topped Costa Rica, 4-1. Costa Rica is expected to be the other Group A team to reach the quarterfinals.

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